FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady completed pass after pass, 11 in a row to start the game.
So much for his injured left knee.
Two days after spraining it, the New England star was perfect before throwing an incompletion on his last pass in the Patriots’ 25-21 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
He also threw his first touchdown to new top wide receiver Danny Amendola on his first series and left after the second.
“Tom’s like a coach out there on the field,” Amendola said. “He knows every intricacy of the offense. He helps young guys out a lot. He’s a leader.”
Brady, who bypassed waiting reporters after Thursday’s joint walkthrough with the Buccaneers (0-2), did it again after his outstanding performance. He left the locker room quickly without holding his usual postgame news conference and the team offered no explanation.
An MRI on his left knee had been negative and he participated fully in the walkthrough.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick shrugged off an opportunity to make his first comments about his reaction to the play Wednesday when left tackle Nate Solder fell back into Brady, knocking him to the ground, after being shoved by defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
“We’re so far past that,” he said. “We’re way beyond that.”
Brady’s nearly perfect performance for the Patriots (2-0) proved that.
“He sure looked good, but we messed up some things,” Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said. “Even if you play great against Tom Brady he’ll complete (passes).”
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman also started and worked two possessions but had a much rougher time against the team they’ll face in the third game of the regular season. He was sacked three times and completed only two of three passes before rookie Mike Glennon took over.
“We just have to find a way to overcome adversity,” Freeman said. “We battled to the end.”
Amendola, signed as a free agent from St. Louis, caught six passes for 71 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown on the game’s first series. Brady completed all eight of his passes for 72 yards, even adding a 2-point conversion pass to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld after Amendola’s touchdown.
Then Brady connected on his first three throws on his next possession, reaching 107 yards passing for the night, before missing Amendola on third-and-7.
Brady has played four series in two games, starting with a 31-22 win over Philadelphia, and completed 18 of 20 passes for 172 yards.
Ryan Mallett replaced him and threw a 22-yard touchdown to Sudfeld, a free agent having an outstanding training camp. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined after offseason back surgery and Aaron Hernandez jailed on a murder charge, Sudfeld has an inside track on a roster spot.
“He’s worked hard to learn our offense, a little different than what they did at Nevada,” Belichick said. “He’s got to learn how to be an on-the-line tight end, but he’s making progress. He’s got a long way to go.”
Mallett completed 12 of 20 passes for 137 yards against the club that allowed the most yards passing in the NFL last season then gave way to Tim Tebow on the Patriots first series of the third quarter. Tebow continued to struggle, completing one of seven passes for minus-1 yard and an interception.
“It was definitely something I shouldn’t have thrown,” he said. “You want to do your best and play to the best of your ability and have it all go right, and sometimes it doesn’t. You just have to keep going.”
Tebow also ran six times for 30 yards.
Freeman was under pressure from the start eight days after playing well in a 44-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
He was sacked by Brandon Spikes on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play, then by Chandler Jones and Spikes on the second series. Eight plays for Freeman, three of them sacks.
The Patriots waited until Glennon’s third play to sack him when Rob Ninkovich tackled him for a 6-yard loss. But on the Bucs’ next series, the third-round draft pick from North Carolina State threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ogletree as they cut the lead to 11-7. Glennon completed 12 of 22 passes for 121 yards and threw another touchdown pass, 1-yard to David Douglas.
New England’s defense made another big play against Glennon when rookie Logan Ryan returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
With New England up 25-18, Tebow’s overthrown pass was intercepted by Mason Robinson. The Bucs scored on Derek Dimke’s second field goal, a 23-yarder.
NOTES: Among the Bucs recovering from injuries who didn’t play were cornerback Darrelle Revis, placekicker Lawrence Tynes and offensive guard Carl Nicks. … Patriots defensive backs Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard also sat out as they come back from injuries. … Gostkowski put the Patriots ahead 11-0 with a 39-yard field goal but missed a 50-yarder after two penalties pushed the Patriots back 15 yards.
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